Sunday, April 30, 2017

A quick climb to Maulin

It's funny what you can pack into a short space of time if you put your mind to it.

There were no plans to go walking yesterday until approximately 10.00 when my walking companion called and suggested we take to the hills. It had to be a quick one as I had to be back home for 18.00.

Maulin was our destination. It is in north east Wicklow, on the border with Dublin and south west of Enniskerry. It stands at 570 metres.

A calm day, cloud but a good view from the top. Bray, Howth, the sea was all to be seen as was the Sugar Loaf and Djouce.

Little or no wind for the first 45 minutes and just before getting to the top that all changed; wind and biting cold, unseasonably so for the end of April. But great, no rain, though was it not forecast?

We bagan our journey from the car park in Crone wood. From closing the car doors to the top was 60 minutes.

A great walk but sadly, no Tess. The vet has deemed her too old for such outings. And in my case it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon of my 68th birthday.
En route to the top of Maulin.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus

The 'Thinking Anew' column which appears in The Irish Times today.

Michael Commane
In the first sentence in tomorrow's Gospel (Luke 24: 13 - 35) Luke tells the reader that two of Jesus's disciples were on their way to Emmaus, and they were talking about all that had happened. For them it was a conversation in a time of crisis. Jesus was walking beside them and they do not recognise him.

Those two men spoke about the suffering and death of Jesus and then how the women who had visited the tomb found that his body was not there. It must have been an interesting conversation. 

Luke goes on to tell us that it was in the breaking of bread that they recognised him. They recognised the risen Lord.

Sensational events, certainly.

It's 50 years since I sat the Leaving Certificate examination in Dublin.  Indeed, our Synge Street class celebrated the event at this year's past pupil reunion dinner. Fifty years is not a short span of time in anyone's life. Much has happened in the intervening years. Lots to reminisce about.

The conversation dominating the Irish media in recent days has all to do with the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital. While that conversation was taking place, the Citizens’ Assembly was issuing its findings on its deliberations on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

And while opposing sides talk, discuss, shout and argue about such issues in Ireland, Lara Marlowe in this newspaper last week wrote about how the French election campaign 'stinks'. 

That same weekend extra police were called out in Cologne to keep opposing sides apart as the right-wing AfD party conference took place in that great city on the Rhine. Last week a police officer was shot dead in Paris, a prisoner was executed in Arkansas.

Every week there is untold suffering and pain. We simply change the television channel and move on. 

All the time the world is watching Russia, China and the United States. Perhaps the world will always be in a “state of chassis” as Captain Boyle said. But in recent days and weeks, there appears to be extra random levels of chaos.

A woman called Brenda from Bristol spoke for many of us when a TV reporter told her that Theresa May had called a general election she replied spiritedly: “You're joking, not another one?” 

Everyone has an opinion on everything. How does the world hold together in such an environment? 

Who controls the levers of power? Who sets the trends? Who wins out?

The Dominican Order, of which I am a member, was founded by St Dominic 800 years ago. And it seems one of the reasons that made him do what he did was to bring together a group of people who would be able to live and talk about the Gospel in such a way that it would make sense to people. 

How well do Christians do that today?  How possible, how real is it to live and talk about resurrection?

Is it possible to make sense of anything in these days of turmoil and palpable anger?

On occasion, I am embarrassed by the “leadership style'” of the Catholic Church. I keep thinking we are not speaking a language that makes sense or could ever nudge people towards thinking about resurrection. Human forms of control and power are not the vocabulary of the resurrection. Why is it that the Christian churches so often seem to be in collusion with right-wing reactionary groups? The life of Jesus was so different.

How can we talk a language that makes sense of resurrection? It is extremely difficult. Pious words, 'holy thoughts' on resurrection are empty words to so many of us in the times in which we live. But it is significant that it was through the breaking of bread, and open and honest discussion that those two disciples on the road to Emmaus came to realise that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Too much of our talk and action has to do with power and control. Suffering, death and resurrection make for another reality that certainly can concentrate the mind. Surely our prayers should help us realise that today we are those disciples on that road to Emmaus.



Friday, April 28, 2017

The Dominican habit

The piece below about the Dominican habit appears on the international website of the Dominican Order.

It really is difficult to take this nonsense. Forty, 50 years ago the habit may well have said something about a person's commitment to poverty.  It seems today the habit, in many cases, is a fashion accessory.

Put simply, by wearing a “habit” (a set of distinctive clothing), consecrated religious are able to visibly express to themselves and to others their state as having given their lives totally to Christ.  The habit also serves the purpose of identifying to what community or order a consecrated religious belongs, as well as to supplement their lives of poverty (having only one outfit theoretically makes our wardrobe budget much lighter).

Israel German spat

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Earlier during his visit to Israel, the German foreign minister met representatives from two leftwing NGOs, Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.

Netanyahu refused to meet Gabriel becasue he considered he had met with 'critics of the Isreali state'.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

RTE's Bundestag

Why anytime there is a German word spoken on RTE an attmept is made to insert the letter 'h'?

On the main evening news today a journalist spoke about the 'Bundeshtag'. The word is Bundestag and pronounced exactly as it appears - without the letter 'h'.

Martin casts a cold eye on a judgemental church

We can be so judgemental and hurtful to those whom we decide have failed and those who drift outside our self-made ideas of respectability.

Spoken by Archbishop Diramuid Martin in a sermon delivered during 'The Way of the Cross' on Good Friday in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In praise

It makes far more sense to praise and affirm people than to codemn and criticise each other.

Today's Gospel is a good read for today: John 3: 16 - 21.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The genius of The Gooch

This week's Independent News &  Media regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
On Easter Tuesday I was getting ready to go out to work. Marty Morrissey was substituting on the RTE Radio 1 Ryan Tubridy Show. He tells us that after the break he will be interviewing Colm The Gooch Cooper. According to Marty it is the first broadcast interview The Gooch has done since announcing his retirement from inter-county football.

My initial reaction was: "Oh no, not more sport. Davy Fitzgerald's antics in Nolan Park the previous Sunday had received so much coverage. It was almost on a par with the US North Korean spat.

But within seconds of listening to Colm I found myself totally engaged in what was going on on the radio. I was so taken with what The Gooch was saying that I phoned a friend of mine in West Kerry, telling her to turn on the radio and suggest to her 13-year-old football fanatic son to listen in.

Within 60 seconds I had been converted. One moment I'm saying not more sport and the next I'm glued to the radio, indeed, so glued to it that I end up arriving a few minutes late for work.

It was great radio but what was it that made it great? The Gooch simply spoke about how he loved playing football, something he has been doing since he was a little boy of eight. How his father was involved in the game at all different levels. He told us that he played in 10 All-Irelands and the ones he most remembers are the ones that Kerry lost.

He came across as a lovely, kind, friendly young man, who might well enjoy some good fun.

Marty asked him if Joe Brolly's negative comments upset him. The Gooch admitted that he would not be giving him any hugs or kisses the next time he sees him at a game, but after that, it was Joe's business how he analysed the sporting abilities of players. You could hear it in his voice that he had no problem with Brolly 'attacking' him.

I listened to the interview right to the end. And if I were in the PR business I'd certainly have The Gooch high up on my list of speakers to invite to give after-dinner speeches. I can well imagine his diary is full.

What made him special for me? It's something indefinable but I think it has something to do with being so personal, maybe honest and real too. Not a word of BS. A lovely Kerry man telling the likes of me how he adores playing football. He came across as the genuine article. Nothing fake, no advisers advising him what to say and that fabulous Kerry accent, all pure genius. 

Colm, thank you for that interview. The way too you spoke about how you came back from injuries was inspiring.

I'm back thinking of the young 13-year-old boy in West Kerry who lives, eats and drinks soccer and GAA. He simply loves playing football. Come to think about it, it's fantastic that he's out there in the fresh air playing games with other children his own age.

Playing sport, whatever form or shape it takes, is good for body and soul. And then telling stories about it, adds to the fun of it all. 

And guess what, I have to admit that I enjoy the antics of the Wexford manager, Davy Fitz. Okay, he says and does some outrageous things but he is certainly entertaining. In that game last Sunday week against Tipperary I found myself supporting Wexford, even if my Mum was from Tipperary.

Yep, sport makes sense

Monday, April 24, 2017

Remembering German writer Heinrich Böll in Achill

This week a group of writers and old friends are gathering at Heinrich Böll's cottage on Achill Island to discuss the German writer's works.

It is happening to honour the centenary of the birth of the novelist, who was born in Cologne on December 12, 1917. After his Abitur he served his time in the book trade before spending six years in the Wehrmacht. He was drafted into the army and fought in the French and Russian campaigns.At the end of the war he came back to Cologne and studied German literatrue. 

In 1949 his first book, The Train was on Time' was published.

It was in Achill that Böll wrote Irisches Tagebuch - Irish Diary.

He wrote of the Nazis: "The Nazis revolted me, repelled me on every level of my existence: conscious and instinctive, aesthetic and political."

Heinrich Böll described the Irish as "the only people in Europe who never set out to conquer."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Brenda from Bristol

When Brenda from Bristol heard that Theresa May had called a general election she gasped: "You're joking, not another one?" 

Last week on BBC2's Newsnight the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd shamelessly said that Theresa May "must be taken at her word".

Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May on a number of occasions loudly and clearly said: "I'm not going to be calling a snap election."

Fake news, lies are surely not the invention of Donald Trump.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Arkansas's shame

A man has been executed in Arkansas, he is the first of eight due to be killed in the state.

Maybe there has been an uproar about it but it has been all quiet

Have the perpratotors of such behaviour been refused Communion at Mass? Have bishops told politicians, who support such behaviour, that they cannot expect the votes of Catholics.

Executing people by injecting them with poison has nothing at all to do with sex.

Little or no fanatical objection anywhere in the world to this barbarous behaviour.

During the 2008 presidential election the bishop of Oklahoma City Paul Coakley declared, "To vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or genocide could require a proportionately grave moral reason for ignoring such a flaw."

He later stated that "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Joe Biden misrepresented Catholic teaching on abortion."

He also said that pro-choice Catholic politicians are "a scandal to others" and "contribute to the perpetuation of a grave evil,"and that denying them Communion "in many cases becomes the right decision and the only choice."

In a statement on April 13 Bishop Frank J Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged the state's governor to reconsider the scheduled executions and reduce the sentences to life imprisonment.

A standing-still heron

This close to a heron on the bank of the Dodder this morning.

Most mornings the bird is standing on a stone in the middle of the river.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

MP for Croydon is not sure when his twins were born

Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, was interviewed on Channel 4 News this evening.

When talking about the crisis in the NHS  he said: "When my twins were born three or four years ago...."

Does the Member of Parliament not know exactly when his twins were born?

Strange.

Anniversary of Powell's ''Rivers of Blood' speech

On this day, April 20, 1968 English Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South, Enoch Powell gave his famous/infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech in Birmingham, where he strongly opposed immigration from the Commonwealth.

Before giving his speech, Powell had said earlier in the week to a friend journalist: "I'm going to make a speech at the weekend and it's going to go up 'fizz' like a rocket; but whereas all rockets fall to the earth, this one is going to stay up."

As a result of the speech, the then leader of the Conservative Party, Edward Heath, sacked Powell from the shadow cabinet.

Two years later, in 1970, the Conservatives went on to win the general election.

Enoch Powell, born 1912, died 1998.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Heading for Scarr

Easter Monday proved the perfect Irish weather to head for the hills.

Destination Scarr in the Wicklow Hills, which stands at 641 metres. The route to the top began close to Lough Dan at Oldbridge and took the three of us over Kanturk (523 metres), which lies north west of Scarr. 

Fabulous views from the top of Scarr. Scarr is a stand-alone hill, which means you can see the terrain right across 360 degrees. Including in the vista was Kippure, Turlough Hill, Vartry Resservoir, Sugar Loaf, the Irish Sea and maybe even hints of Slieve Bloom.

That sort of a day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Take to the hills

This week's Independent News & Media regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On the Sunday of Holy Week I climbed Djouce in the Wicklow Hills. Djouce is 725 metres high. I have walked it a number of times but every time it’s an all-new experience. The name comes from the Irish word Dioghais, meaning ‘fortified height’.

I have said it before in this column, I will be forever grateful to the Dominicans for introducing me to the hills. Back in the day it was the cusom of the Dominican house of studies that students went walking in the hills on Thursdays. The priory in Tallaght was perfectly situated as a starting point for escapades into the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. All that was required were a pair of legs and a bicycle and good health too of course.

My friend who comes walking with me is an Englishman and he has a great knowledge of the Irish mountainscape. I leave all the technical aspects to him but I usually have a compass in my pocket in case anything should ever go wrong.

Our Sunday on Djouce was simply magic: visibility was great. One of those special days in Ireland when we could see all around us. Below was Vartry Reservoir and in the distance we could see Turlough Hill.

I’m always somewhat hesitant in heading out. I need some cajoling and persuasion but once out I just feel the wonder of it all.

Walking in the hills has a special grace and excitement about it, indeed, walking in any sort of open space offers one endless possibilities: the things we see and hear. That day on Djouce on the way down we spotted high in the sky a kestrel. It hovered for a second or two and then quickly began to flutter its wings. It was clear that it saw its prey down below and was about to swoop.

We usually stop for food close to the top of a mountain but on Sunday the wind was too strong and cold and there was no shelter. So we left our ‘dining’ until we were back down at the foot of the mountain. Honestly, the joy of sitting down with a sandwich and a flask of tea after a pleasant walk is close to perfection.

Besides all the fun, walking strengthens your heart, lowers disease risk and reduces the chances catching type two diabetes by approximately 60 per cent and regular walkers are 20 per cent less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast or womb. And of course it helps you lose weight too. It also boosts your mood. It’s the perfect elixir for body and soul. And that sense of exhilaration when the job is completed is simply fantastic.

We are racing towards summer. The days are long, we have close to 16 hours daylight, growth is bursting open in front of our eyes. So, why not go out and enjoy it. There is nowhere in Ireland too far from the sea, a mountain, a lake, a canal or river.

But never walk in the hills on your own. Like everything in life, especially the great things, it’s essential we respect the countryside.

Be sensible, it's always advisable to bring waterproofs, and a packed lunch adds to the adventure element of the walk and besides that, it’s most likely you are going to be hungry and thirsty too. But never any alcohol. Plan your walk in advance and it’s always a good idea that someone walking with you knows the area. Foolhardiness is not for the mountain, for nowhere in the great outdoors. And the golden rule, never leave a trace.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ratzinger at 90

Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer is among German guests who will be in the Vatican today to wish Josef Ratzinger happy birthday.

Pope Emeritus Benedict was born in Bavaria on April 16, 1927.

Yesterday was for the family and close friends, today is a more public celebration.

A lovely picture. On left is Horst Seehofer, Pope Emeritus Benedict, his brother. Apologies don't know who the other people in the picture are.



BBC resurrection poll

According to a BBC survey, a quarter of people, who describe themselves as Christian in Great Britain, do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Outstanding Dominicans

After Mass today a man approached me. After initial introductions he told me he had been to school in Newbridge College.

He mentioned a number of Dominican priests but the two at the top of the list were Paul Hynes and Jordan O'Brien.

He spoke of them in glowing terms and how outstanding an impression they left on him.

Could there be a finer way to celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection?

The Enda Alan spat

The Alan Shatter Enda Kenny story is typical of what happens across so many organisations and groupings.

We are forever told that it's never a good idea to be 'personal'. There's that great putdown line, "please, don't be personal". And it's always the advice given by the 'wise' and those in authority.

But everything in our lives, in our place of work, in the organisations to which we belong, so often centres around people and personalities.

We perform great tricks to pretend we are not 'personal'. Of course we are.

It happens right across all groupings.

People make up their minds about people never having met them but have listened to the gossip of others about them.

People often make up their minds about organisations, teams, churches, everything on maybe just one encounter with one member of that group, indeed, they may have heard something about them.

It's as daft as that. We all do it and maybe its greatest practitioners are found in the world of clericalism

It's a funny old world.


US killing fields

This in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Will the perpetrators of this butchery have to answer for their crimes?

Why does the world not speak with a stronger voice agains these cold-blooded murders?


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Benedictine calls for discussion on celibacy

What at all will the management class in the Catholic Church say in reply to the comments made by Benedictine priest Mark Patrick Hederman in his latest book, The Opal and the Pearl, which is published this week?

Money for old rope

It is reported today that former UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has earned close to a million pounds giving speeches since the Brexit vote when he vacated 11 Downing Street.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Putin quote

In 1999, Vladimir Putin described communism  as "a blind alley, far away from the mainstream of civilisation".

This Good Friday the Irish Dominican Province is absent from Limerick city

Is it the last drink-free Good Friday in Ireland?

Probably.

It's not too long ago since Good Friday in Ireland was without newspapers, public houses, shops, radio. And 98 per cent of the population claimed to be Catholic. It's all changed. Good or bad?

This year in Limerick the Redemptorist church reports good numbers attending its Holy Week services.

This Good Friday, the Irish province of the Dominican Order is not at home at its priory  in Glentworth Street.

The Dominicans arrived in Limerick in 1226.

That the Irish province has pulled out of the city is nothing less than a scandal. Limerick is the third city in the State, it is a university city and on willy nilly, almost a whim, the Irish Dominicans closed the door of their priory in the heart of the city.

It would seem a most strange and unwise management decision.

Yesterday the Labour Court gave an inkling of how poor management skills are at Bus Éireann.

What would happen if the Labour Court examined the management class in Irish Catholic dioceses and Irish religious congregations?

The results would make for fascinating reading.

Good Friday

Today, Good Friday, is the ideal day for people, but especially priests, to visit the sick and elderly, people forgotten, people living on their own, the fragile, the weak.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Russian response to US

A comment made yesterday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in response to the US effort in getting Russia to disassociate itself from the Syrian president.

“We’ve already gone through such experiments based on the need to overthrow some dictator or authoritarian leader.

"I don’t know of any positive examples of removing.

Leaving aside personalities, It is understandable why Russia is so nervous of US behaviour.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the West cannot be proud of how it has dealt with Russia.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Any meat in this story?

Subeditors play an essential role in the running of any newspaper. Unfortunately there are fewer doing the job today than there were 10, 15 years ago.

Most likely this headline would have been spotted by the careful eye of a sub.

It appears on page eight of this week's 'The Irish Catholic'.

But sure, it could happen a bishop.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A reminder of resurrection

This week's Independent News & Media regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
As a hospital chaplain I am confronted with illness, fragility and death.

Most young people, indeed, people in their 30s, 40s, even 50s don't give a thought to death or dying, that is unless they have seen it close up through the death or serious illness of a relative or close friend. Or they themselves have been struck down by a life-threatening illness.

When my father died a friend mentioned to me about the finality of death. Most things in life can be fixed, ameliorated, something can be done about the situation. But death is the end of the line. Or is it?

In one sense it is never the time to die. But nobody escapes it. I remember the morning my mother died, walking out of the hospital saying to myself that if there were people who avoided death then I would be annoyed and angry, but nobody can escape death.

We read and see about death everyday but somehow or other it passes over our heads. Last week there were explicit and vivid images of people, including young children being slaughtered in Syria? The world was alarmed and outraged. The Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons against innocent civilians. But it is so easy for us to change channel and simply distance ourselves from the horror of such situations.

It is only when it is close to us, when someone we know or love dies that the tragedy of it cuts through our being.

Why are some people cut down at an early age, while others breeze through life without a pain?

What do you say to a school boy who has been diagnosed with a serious illness?

And after death? There is that stock-in-trade reply that nobody has ever come back from the dead to tell us what happens. What about Jesus of Nazareth?

There are days, and nights too, when I consider any idea of an afterlife preposterous. And then when I visit the grave of my parents I find myself utterly convinced that they have not been annihilated and that they are, in some sort of mysterious communion, with one another and God. Is that crazy thinking? Is it some sort of escape route so that I can feel better about the fate of my parents? Does it help me avoid the finality of death?

In so many ways the idea of eternity is beyond my pay-grade. I was born into the Christian faith, I'm a child of my environment, I doubt, doubt every day, but also I believe, and my overriding conviction, my faith, is in resurrection from the dead. And that's what we'll be celebrating on Sunday, new life in the Risen Lord.

Yes, it's an enormous leap, a mystery but I'm inclined to go with it.

Next Sunday is Easter Sunday, the central feast of the Christian calendar. It's the day when we say that we affirm our belief in the resurrection. The entire Christian belief system centres around the idea that there is life beyond the grave. And, as St Paul says, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain.

We are born to die and we die to live.

Certainty about anything can so often leave us falling flat on our face. Personally, I'm always nervous of people who express certitude about anything. There are too many curves and bends on the road of life that makes it far too glib to know it all.

I hesitatingly, falteringly too, believe in life, life with Christ, all the time, hoping in resurrection.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Djouce on Palm Sunday

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, the perfect day to take to the hills.

Djouce, which is 725 metres high in the Wicklow Mountains, was the perfect viewing platform on a day with fabulous visibility. 

Much more pleasant ascent is to go around by the side of Djouce. It's less steep but longer.

Down below Vartry Reservoir and off in the distance Turlough Hill and even further away Lugnaquilla.

The Wicklow Hills are a relatively quiet place but yesterday it was a busier place than usual. Small groups of Dutch and Germans and a large group of Trinity students, members of the college's mountaineering club. On the way down a sole woman with her two dogs. She didn't think she'd get to the top.

Magic. But unfortunately, no longer a place for Tess. According to the vet, she is too old to make it to the top of Djouce. Sad.

And then this morning daylight at 06.00, at least in Dublin. Unseasonably cold but these have to be the best days of the year, everything is ahead.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ad with pious cliches must spell doom for Dominicans

The Irish province of the Dominican Order has published new promotional vocations' literature.

It seems the Irish Dominican province has been hijacked by a group of right-wing culture warriors.

Reading  the leaflet one could easily get the impression that Dominicans have exclusive rights on truth.

It's insulting to the bus driver, the nurse on the hospital ward, the IT worker, the gardener, the cleaner, the teacher in the classroom, the journalist, everyone, who is not a cleric.

Is this really what has become of the Irish Dominicans? It can't be as ludicrous as this? Does the material tell us anything about the work Irish Dominicans do?

It tells us that "Dominicans live in imitation of Christ". Self-centred gobbledegook. Far too universal a statement to have a shred of truth about it. 

The layout, the style, the typeface is unattractive. 

On the accompanying prayer card one reads:  "... Our Blessed Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and patrones(sic) of the Order.

"The form of life of the Dominican friar draws him to enter more perfectly into union with Christ and to be transformed along the way." In this awkward sentence it's still possible to get a sense of the pomposity of the leaflet. Indeed, an insult to the parents of every single Irish Dominican.

What sort of people would or could be attracted to this view of life, the world, God?

Does it say a meaningful word to 21st century readers?

The vocabulary throughout the leaflet is simply alienating and couched in pious cliches.

And then the pictures. Below are two of the pictures in the leaflet.



Saturday, April 8, 2017

www.protectthe8th.ie

A leaflet published by www.protectthe8th.ie begins with the following paragraphs:

"A number of vocal individuals and groups, supported by allies in the media, are campaigning for a referendum, to repeal the 8th Amendment.

"They are trying to persuade people like you that this amendemnt is an affornt to the human rights of women.

"Many of these campaigners, including the Labour Party and the extreme Left, wish to see abortion as freely available here as it is in Briatain, where one in five unborn babies is killed by abortion. The 8th Amnedment stands in their way."

Leaving aside the discussion on abortion an introduction such as this certainly can't win friends. It sounds so nasty and dismissivie.

Who actually are 'allies of the media'?

It's simply alienating. Nothing nice or pleasant about it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A dream of Pope Francis

I dream of a church which reaches out, not a church which is self-referential, a church which does not pass by at a distance the hurts of human kind, a merciful church which announces what is at the heart of the revelation of divine love, and that is mercy.

Pope Francis in his letter of convocation of the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Dublin.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Supreme Court Judge launches Bowman book

Supreme Court Judge John McMenamin will launch Conor Bowman's latest novel Horace Winter Says Goodbye this evening at The Law Library Distillery Building, Church Street, Dublin 7 at 18.30.

Conor is a past pupil of Newbridge College.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

'The truth will set you free'

A line in today's Gospel goes:

".... The truth will set you free."

In the current issue of The Irish Catholic Garry O'Sullivan writes that papal nuncio Charles Brown was a 'can-do' priest.

In the same issue, the editor, Michael Kelly writes: "The Church in Ireland will miss the charismatic American."

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

It's our environment, stupid

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
I have written in this column on previous occasions about a homeless man, whom I know, who is in prison at present.

Last Monday week I visited him in Cloverhill Remand Prison. 

On this occasion we had a long and detailed chat. We spent an hour talking, during which time he paraphrased his life-story. From day one it paints a bleak picture. He has been in and out of 'trouble' most of his life. He honestly believes that he has been a victim and that his family and the authorities have given him a raw deal.

From what I know of the man I am of  the opinion he needs psychiatric care. He also needs TLC.

A prison can be a bleak place, at least in Ireland. I remember on one occasion being in a prison in Germany and being greatly impressed with the campus, its architecture, the general environment, and the room in which I visited the prisoner. Having said that, the Training Unit in Mountjoy is a kind place.

On leaving Cloverhill Prison I cycled part of the way home before taking a bus. I have a fold-up bicycle, which is pure magic. Provided there is space on the bus I can place it in the luggage bay.

On this particular occasion there was a buggy in the bay but I managed to arrange things in such a way that there was place for my bike and the buggy. I saw a woman with a baby in her arms so I presumed it was her buggy. It was. 

When she was getting off a young man and I took off the buggy for her. Not a hint of a thank you. She had three small children with her, and if I can recollect correctly, she raised her voice to them on a number of occasions. 

On a completely superficial call, the woman came across as being unfriendly. Maybe I got it totally wrong, but that was the vibe I felt that day on that bus. Then again, if I had three toddlers in tow, how might I behave? Our circumstances always play a role in our behaviour.

Two days later I saw a motorist and a cyclist involved in 'words'. The motorist reversed his car and came too close to the cyclist. It was clearly the motorist who was at fault but incredibly, the motorist chastised the cyclist, using foul language. I wonder what were his circumstances?

What makes us rude and aggressive?  Is it in all of us, and depending on environment and circumstances it raises its ugly head?

And then I think of my job as a hospital chaplain: I never see a whiff of the sort of 'stuff' I see on the streets inside the hospital gates.

Every day I observe love, kindness, goodness and I see it in great dollops. My job involves sitting down, listening and talking to people. Trying too to be kind. And in so doing, enabling people and me, maybe even to see a glimpse of God.

Imagine if my friend in prison had experienced in his early life acts of genuine kindness and love would he be in Cloverhill today? I doubt it.

There are no simple answers to anything. But being kind and considerate to others is always the best policy.

It costs no money to be kind. It costs no money to say hello and smile. And it makes a world of a difference, to the receiver and the giver.

What role does our environment, our circumstances play in our behaviour? It sure is 100-Dollar question.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Time for a Lenten prayer to help priests and bishops

In today's Gospel the scribes and Pharisees slink away when they are confronted by the kindness and mercy of Jesus, his goodness too.

What happens with ministers of religion?

Is it time for a Lenten prayer asking God to make Irish priests and bishops kinder, more open and honest.

Can priests, but maybe especially bishops, rid themselves of their attempt of working hard to be 'cute hoors'.

It's really time provinicals and bishops stopped pretending to be corporate executives. 

They're not and they look ridiculous in their attempt at trying to be so.

And then the little sycophants who follow their every word. One word for it - pathetic.

Also prayers please that the new papal nuncio will have the imagination and honesty to help appoint bishops who will be exciting and interesting people. We need kind and imaginative bishops. We have enough yes men/sycophants already.

And it would be extraordinary prayers that are required to give leadership within some of the Irish religious congregations.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Murders go up in the State

In 2016 there were 38 murders recorded in the State.

This is an increase of 31 per cent on the previous year.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

People respond to goodness

The 'Thinking Anew' column in 'The Irish Times' today.

Michael  Commane
It's probably true to say that newspapers, radio and television pick up the mood of the day. They reflect much of what's happening and how people are thinking, even in an era of social media and fake news. Fake news too, and social media also have a story to tell. Bad news sells newspapers but so too does good news and sometimes good news can catch our hearts and imagination in an extraordinary way.

Last week in Ireland we saw three funerals of public people, Maureen Haughey, Ryan McBride and Martin McGuinness. Many people spoke highly of all three. 

During the Ireland-Wales football game last week, commentators observed that Ireland's James McClean, being from Derry, would be affected in his performance on the pitch by the deaths of Ryan McBride and Martin McGuinness.  And political and social commentators looked back with kind words and thoughts on the life of Maureen Haughey, as did those who knew her family, the Lemass family, as good neighbours in south Dublin. 

It lifts our hearts to hear kind and good words about people, even more so on the occasion of their deaths.

The word 'legend' is used far too often about people but in this case is it possible to say all three people were in their own particular ways 'legends'? They certainly were well-known people on the Irish landscape.

On Tuesday morning when Martin McGuinness' death was announced, RTE's 'Morning Ireland' devoted most of the programme to his life. It was great radio and certainly made me listen.

For the rest of the week people spoke about the journey McGuinness had made, a journey from gunman to politician to peace-maker. Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell brilliantly summed up the life and times of Martin McGuinness when he explained how he refused to shake McGuinness' hand the first time he met him and then later invited him to his wedding.

"By the time I left government 10 years later I regarded him as a friend," Powell said on BBC 2's 'Newsnight'.

No matter how cynical or hardened we become, when we hear good about people it does us good. It is generally accepted that McGuinness was genuine in his move from gun to peacemaker.
McGuinness was no saint. Indeed, it makes no sense to attempt to “airbrush” his history of violence. But it is always heartening and uplifting to witness kind and good acts.

It might well be possible to say that all good acts and kind behaviour are hints of the kindness and goodness of God. Tomorrow's Gospel (John 11: 1- 45) where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead is a great story about the kindness and compassion of the Son of God. In spite of his busy programme he still has time to show his love and consideration to Mary and Martha by bringing Lazarus back to life and pointing towards the resurrection.

In the first reading at Mass tomorrow from the Prophet Ezekiel  (37: 12 - 14) we are told how the spirit of the Lord gives us life and how we will be conscious of that life.

Christianity would make no sense without resurrection, one might say, it's the thread on which it all hangs. And it's difficult using just words to get anywhere near conveying or comprehending the mystery of resurrection. But it's fair to say that every good deed we do is in some small but significant way a sign, a hint and an anticipation of what resurrection is about.

When we are drawn to goodness, when we spot and appreciate good and kind deeds we are being nudged in the direction of God. And when we ourselves do good and are inclined to goodness we are helping to make God's presence recognisable in the world.

People respond to goodness, and maybe especially so when people have a change of heart and come to realise the importance of doing good and being good.